Refugee and Asylum


Advancing the Rights and Well-Being of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Why focus on asylum seekers and refugee health?

A significant number of vulnerable asylum seekers currently live in the UK including the North West (NW) of England. According to Refugee Council, UK (2017)1 the number of asylum seekers in UK in receipt of section 95 asylum support at end of Quarter 1 of 2017 stands at 39,365 with the North West hosting the largest number of 9,524 in dispersal accommodation. The asylum seekers and refugees’ experiences have diverse impacts on their health as individuals and as families2. While health issues affecting individual asylum seekers and refugees clearly may vary depending on problems related to pre-migration, nature and duration of their journeys, and post migration, there are common health concerns across all age groups. These concerns are usually complex problems and are extensively documented within the resource section of this hub.

It is known that the majority of health care professionals have limited knowledge of health concerns faced by asylum seekers and refugees3. In addition, there is lack of coordination of available resources and services, which provide information and support related to the health needs of refugees and asylum seekers4. This Online Resource Hub has therefore been developed to provide a readily accessible and understandable information source on the asylum-seeking process and role of professionals.

The development of the Online Resource Hub has been underpinned by empirical research based on a participatory research approach. The respondents were professionals who have extensive experiences in working with asylum seekers and refugees and some of them were former refugees themselves. They explored and identified the key challenges and solutions related to the complex needs of asylum seekers and refugees and suggested the resources required to support and advance their rights and well-being. The concepts identified were categorised into themes, which were used as the basis for organising the contents of the Hub.

Key definitions

It is very important for professionals to familiarise with the key terms and definitions relating to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Some common definitions and terms are used below

A Refugee

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

An Asylum Seeker

A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.

An Economic migrant

Someone who has moved to another country to work. Refugees are not economic migrants.

Unaccompanied minors (asylum seeking children)

A young person judged to be under 18 years of age, without an adult to care for them, is entitled to the same rights as other looked-after children and young people, this includes support for accommodation, finance, education, statutory health assessments, and reviews.

The various definitions or refugee status

Asylum seeker

A person who has submitted an application for protection under the Geneva Convention and is waiting for the claim to be decided by the Home Office.

Refugee status

Accepted as a refugee under the Geneva Convention and granted Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – permanent residence in the UK. Eligible for family reunion (one spouse and any child of that marriage under the age of 18).

Exceptional Leave to Enter or Remain (ELE or ELR)

The Home Office accepts there are strong reasons why the person should not return to the country of origin. ELR grants the right to stay in the UK for 4 years. (S)he is expected to return if the home country situation improves therefore ineligible for family reunion.


The person’s application for refugee status is rejected but (s) he has a right of appeal, within strict time limits Family reunion Spouse and children under the age of 18 of a person who is given refugee status. They are given Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) - permanent residence in the UK.


  1. Refugee Council (2017) Quaterly asylum statistics, Refugee Council, London.
  2. Nicholson, B, Reid, C, & Albuerne, C (2012), 'Primary care for asylum seekers', Innovait, 5, 2, p. 112.
  3. Ochieng, BMN (2013) 'Black African migrants: the barriers with accessing and utilizing health promotion services in the UK', European Journal of Public Health, 23, 2, pp. 265-269.